ORBT, Train-like Bus Ride
December 24th, 2020
It’s been a little over a month since ORBT began operating in Omaha. We took a ride on the train-like buses and talked to users to get feedback about the service.
At the stop near 14th and Dodge streets, I waited for three buses. Each one arrived 10 minutes apart, as advertised.
As a lady on a motorized wheelchair boarded one of the buses, the driver assisted her and secured the wheelchair with a safety belt.
Justin Leonard lives in the downtown area and rides the bus because he doesn’t have a car. He often travels to the Crossroads mall and places that he can’t access on his bike. The punctuality of the service and free WiFi in terminals is something he enjoys. He also likes that he does not have to wave at the bus driver because all buses stop at each one of the 27 stops.
Quote One: It’s been very good so far the only issue that I had is when I had my bike, I had a problem with the bike rack, keeping the bike on.
ORBT is offering free service for the first four months of operations, but Leonard says he will continue to use the bus even if he has to pay his fare.
I’m willing to pay, I mean it is just like any other bus, I won’t want to pay any more for the service, Leonard said.
In the middle of my conversation with Leonard, just ten minutes from the previous bus, the other bus arrives and he boards it.
If someone wants to do the full ORBT route, it takes about an hour, from the downtown area to Westroads mall.
CEO of Metro Transit Lauren Cencic told KVNO News how ORBT tries to work differently from the other routes in the city. One of the ways to provide better service is by having fewer stops on the route and increasing the distance between stops. ORBT can communicate with traffic lights and stop less to maintain a constant schedule. ORBT wants users to have a train-like experience while commuting.
ORBT is really a different animal, a different type of service. It is called bus rapid transit, which is really and upgraded premium service that it’s been really successful throughout the US and throughout the world, Cencic, said.
When we were deciding whether or not to do Orbit and to discontinue route two, certainly we were concerned about people that would be inconvenienced by the less frequent stop,s so we did a lot of surveys, a lot of passenger counts, and we held public meetings on it and found that nine out of ten riders will have their stop changed by less than three blocks.
Dwight Tollan rides the bus from Monday to Friday and he is one of the few bus users affected by the increase in distances between stops. He was very satisfied with the old route two.
Basically for Tollan, it has gone from three to five blocks away to get to a stop. He remembers well the day he carried a microwave oven with him. Tollan is also concerned about disabled people who use this service, and the frequent stops do not make sense for him either.
Switching from route two to ORBT, trips increased from 65 to 100 per day, and Cencic still believes that overall, the change benefits more people than it does not.
Some changes have been made to continue improving the service according to Cencic. Based on the positive feedback metro has received about ORBT, Metro is already seeing the potential to expand the service to other routes. The construction process is lengthy, but a decision on the plan could be made in the next year.
Due to the pandemic, buses are disinfected twice a day with sanitizers approved by the CDC due to the increase in users. For more information or to submit a comment, go to www.omentro.com
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